Growing Pains, And Lessons Learned

As you may already know, Natian has recently expanded our system and upgraded to a 10bbl brewery with two 30bbl fermenters and a 30bbl conditioning tank.  This means we will be able to produce a whole lot more beer for you to enjoy.  We’ll also be able to expand our distribution area outside of Portland and tap into new markets.  Needless to say, we’re EXTREMELY thrilled at the opportunities that lie ahead for us!  The past three years have been quite a challenge trying to meet demand for Natian while only brewing on a 1bbl system.  But not as hard as working to get the new system installed and operational.

You see, brewing the beer is easy, it’s something I’ve done literally hundreds of times.  I could probably do a batch in my sleep without really thinking about it.  Having such a small system just meant that I had to make more batches.  The 1bbl system was pretty much self-contained into one unit.  Here’s a picture so you can see what I’m talking about.  If I wanted to, I could easily pack it all up into a pickup truck and bring it over to your house to brew a batch of beer.


The original 1 bbl system.

Coordinating the installation of the new brewery was challenging because it was all new to me, so I was learning on the fly.  First of all, it’s 10 times bigger meaning we couldn’t just grab a few friends to come give us a hand lifting it into place.  Getting the system and fermenters into place took forklifts and other lifting machinery.  Not to mention I now had a large boiler and hot liquor tank to heat the massive amount of water needed to brew 10bbl’s worth of beer.  A crane was also needed to lift the glycol system onto the roof.  Glycol is basically a refrigeration system that’s used to keep the beer at proper fermenting temperature in the fermenting tanks.  Once everything was in place, it was time to pipe it all together and run electricity to all the motors, pumps and control panel.


Lifting the glycol system onto the roof.


All this work was well beyond my “handyman” level of construction and building knowledge.  It was time to bring in real plumbers, electricians and refrigeration professionals.  The thing is, this is something you don’t think much about when purchasing the actual brewery system.  You spend a lot of money on a brand new brewery and just think about all the beer you will now be able to make, which is very exciting.  It shows up, we get it into place and now we’re ready to go.  But no.  This is when the real work begins, and things can get difficult.

If you’ve ever built or remodeled a home, then you may know what I’m talking about.  You have a plan before you start, but with construction you never know what’s going to happen until you actually dig in an get started.  Issues always come up that you never anticipated.  Maybe you wanted to run a pipe through a wall but come to find out you can’t because there’s something critical inside the wall which you can’t remove.  So now you have to figure out how to route the pipe to bypass that wall, which takes more time and material.  And ultimately more money.  Then you have to meet “CODE”!  Don’t even get me started on “code”….  Every regulatory agency in the land shows up to make sure that pipes, conduits and clearances meet code!  It gets frustrating at times, but I’ve learned how to deal with it and roll with the punches.

My take away from this experience is that your best laid plans usually don’t go as planned.  You’ve got to expect a certain number of problems and hiccups along the way.  If you realize this ahead of time, you’ll know to add in a certain amount of time and money to your budget so you won’t get derailed and upset when setbacks happen.  You’ll be able to deal with them more easily, adapt as necessary and keep moving forward.  And if you’re fortunate enough to have the plan go smoothly, then you’re ahead of the game and you can smile happily.

Long story short, after many weeks of challenges and hardships overcome, Natian is now up and running, bigger than ever.  The first few batches have been brewed and are waiting to be enjoyed by you, our dedicated fans.  We appreciate your support over the last three years, and also your patience during this expansion period.  Without you none if it would be possible, thank you!  There will now be plenty of delicious Natian beer available at your favorite bar, store or bottle shop.  Enjoy!


Me and the new system, ready for action.


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